Google’s Chromebook product appears to be moving from zero to hero in a few short years. The original Chromebooks on sale were released by Acer and Samsung back in June 2011. We’ve seen other manufacturers join in, including Lenvo, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Toshiba and ASUS in no particular order. Chrome OS can run on ARM and Intel x86 processors. The 32-bit operating system typically comes with 2 GB of RAM but there are several easily available models that ship with 4 GB. And as it happens, many of the Android Headlines editors and staff writers use Chromebooks of various types. I’m often seen carrying my much-battered Samsung Series 3 Chromebook (that’s one of the first models based around the ARM processor). The Chromebook is predominantly a thin client system, that is, most of their functionality uses the web browser although you can use Android applications, both official and unofficial on the platform. If you have seen any of Microsoft’s negative-Chromebook advertising you might think that the Chromebook is useless without an Internet connection but the reality is that they’re still useful. When you drill down into Microsoft’s marketing it comes to the point that the Chromebook can’t do online things without… an online connection.
Can I gently cough “Windows Phone” at this point?
Despite Microsoft’s claims, Chromebook shipments are still on the rise thanks to their low cost and ease of use. Education users have adopted the platform and as one might expect, the back to school end-of-summer period was especially beneficial for the platform as parents would rather buy their kids a productivity computer (with a hardware keyboard) than the relatively fragile Apple iPad. Research from ABI suggests that 2014’s Chromebook shipping numbers will be double that of 2013; Microsoft’s low-cost Windows strategy may be too little, too late and it’s too soon to see what impact this will have. Microsoft have removed the license fee for Windows 8.1 if it’s bundled with Bing and manufacturers are introducing competitively priced Windows laptops. It’s important not to forget corporates sales either as approximately one in three sales are reputed to be for enterprise users. I suspect that many intermediate or seasoned computer veterans will remember the experience of a low cost Windows computer as they tend to be sluggish and not a great user experience, so will not jump for the platform.
What do you think? Do you have a Chromebook and are you interested in upgrading it for a newer model this year? Have you been sitting on the fence but are tempted by the newer higher powered 2014 Chromebook models? Or do you prefer a tablet for your mobile productivity computing needs?